Here’s Why Cottonwood Is Not A Good Choice For Furniture

There’s plenty of choice when it comes to selecting the right hardwood for your furniture.

The toughest woods make for long lasting furniture, capable of taking on the wear and tear of daily use. But, not all hardwoods are as hard as their classification might suggest.

Hardwoods such as Basswood, Aspen, and Balsa wood are some of the softest timbers you can work with. And Eastern Cottonwood (a Cottonwood species that grows right around North America), is just as soft.

But, what does all of this mean when it comes to using Cottonwood for furniture?

Well, in this post, you will find out what Cottonwood tends to be used for. You will also discover exactly how strong Cottonwood is (compared to other North American hardwoods).

And keep reading to discover what really connects Cottonwood to Poplar wood…

is cottonwood good for furniture

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What Are The Typical Uses For Cottonwood?

For a hardwood, Cottonwood is a pretty low density lightweight timber. So, it tends to be used for making various types of boxes and crates.

But, this particular lumber isn’t all that durable, and is far from rot-resistant. So, it isn’t used for any sort of exterior pieces.

Can You Stain Cotton Wood? Not easily. This wood doesn’t absorb penetrating oil finishes or stains evenly. So, you’ll need wood conditioner to slow down the absorption rate of any stain product.

Is Cottonwood Really That Soft? Exactly How Strong Is Cottonwood?

Well, when it comes to wood, one of the ways we measure strength is by checking woods ‘compressional strength’.

Compressional strength measures how well a piece of wood can hold up against compressional stress.

And one easy way we measure woods compressional strength, is by using the Janka Hardness Scale.

The Janka Hardness Scale reflects the pounds of force it takes to dent a piece of wood. The more force it takes, then the higher that woods Janka rating. And the higher the rating, the stronger and harder the timber.

As a general rule of thumb, wood types that have high Janka ratings are more durable (and last longer). They are also more scratch-resistant too.

Related Post: Can You Really Use Decking Stain On Garden Furniture?

And What Is Cottonwoods Janka Rating?

When it comes to Cottonwood, this particular timber is not one of the hardest around. Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides) is the Cottonwood tree species that grows around the USA and Canada.

And this particular subspecies of Populus tree has a Janka rating of just 430 lbf. What this means is that it’ll take a mere 430 pounds of force to dent this wood.

Compared against other more sturdy North American hardwood heavyweights, such as Sugar Maple (1450 lbf), White Oak (1350 lbf), and even Birch (1260 lbf), Cottonwood is pretty much a featherweight.

What’s more, Cottonwoods low compressional strength (and low density) is also reflected in the light dried weight of this timber.

Once Cottonwood has been seasoned, it can weigh a mere 28 lbs per cubic foot. For a little perspective, Sugar Maple has a dried weight of around 44 lbs per cubic foot.

Isn’t Cottonwood Just Poplar Wood? What Is The Difference Between Poplar And Cottonwood?

Poplar is the name of a tree genus, the Populus genus. And Cottonwood is just one of 35+ different subspecies of Populus.

In addition to Cottonwood, other Poplar wood subspecies are trees such as Aspens, and Balsam Poplars.

However, the Poplar widely used for whittling small crafts and toys, comes from the Yellow Poplar (a.k.a the Tulip tree).

Related Post: Is Tulip Poplar Wood Good For Firewood?

OK…So Is Cottonwood Any Good For Furniture?

Short answer; no, it is not.

Long answer; this wood isn’t strong enough to be used for tables and chairs. Instead, when Cottonwood is used for furniture, it is primarily used as a ‘secondary wood’.

And What Is A Secondary Wood?

When it comes to furniture, a secondary wood is used to make select sections of an item. But it is not used to make the overall furniture framework.

For example, Cottonwood would be used to make sections of a cabinet drawer. However, it would not be used to make the overall cabinet.

This is what we mean when we say a wood like Cottonwood is a secondary wood.

Related Post: Is Cottonwood Good For Carving? (What You Really Need To Know)

To Wrap Up, Here Are The 3 Key Takeaways From This Post…

  • 1). Eastern Cottonwood is a very lightweight timber, and it has a great strength-to-weight ratio.
  • 2). However, it’s total strength pales in comparison to most other hardwoods, such as Hard Maple and White Oak.
  • 3). Cottonwood isn’t strong enough to be used to make solid furniture. It is primarily used as a secondary wood.


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